Well made hyperlapse is always eye catching, but can take many hours to create. Both shooting and post production are very time consuming, so people are always trying to cut some time off each step. However without huge experience, it’s hard to say which parts can be done faster without sacrificing the quality of our shot. Some things can make us waste more time in post production than we save during shooting, or even make our shot impossible to stabilize, so unusable at all. Then you save a few minutes on shooting, but in the end waste 3 hours, because your shot goes to trash.
The most important advice I give people who ask me for help with their hyperlapses is on how to shoot the hyperlapse well, not how to stabilize it, because if the shot is done well, stabilization is easy.
There are two stages for each hyperlapse – it’s shooting and stabilizing. Let’s start with the mistakes that are the most popular when shooting.
Inaccuracy when shooting
As you know, in hyperlapse we have something called a fixed point or a reference point. It’s the point in your scene, that you point your camera at taking each shot. And as it seems a simple step, here we usually have the most problems. That’s, unlike it seems, a pretty big topic, as the whole thing depends on the focal length, the path for your hyperlapse and the positions of the reference point within your frame. I have in depth analysis of that on Hyperlapse Academy, my online hyperlapse school.
The most important thing you should remember is to be as accurate when shooting as possible. I know, it’s hard if you’ve already taken 200 pictures and have a hundred more to take. Probably your hands and back already hurt. It’s very tempting to be slightly less accurate just to finish the shooting faster. The worst thing is when you shoot a hyperlapse for an hour, then you’re trying to stabilize it for two more hours and in the end you have to delete the whole shot as it’s unusable.
So, choose the reference point that you’ll be able to see for the whole shot very clearly. It should be a fairly small point. And make sure, there isn’t anything similar close to it. For example, if you choose a window on the building that has 50 the same windows, you can by mistake in the middle of the shot start aiming the wrong one, or just for a few shots aim some other window. Trust me, I’ve been there.
Choosing the wrong camera path
In hyperlapse, it’s pretty important to choose the right camera movement. One mistake that I see quite often is that people think they don’t need to follow any line on the ground and move the tripod freely, ending with very hard or impossible to stabilize hyperlapse. Usually in hyperlapse, as we move the tripod, we choose some line on the ground, something on the pavement or a curb.
Some types of paths are harder to do, some are easier. Before the shot you need to analyze it and estimate, how will it go. There are shots that I just don’t do, because the location doesn’t let me find any line to follow. Of course, you can do your own lines, but it’s not always possible. An example of a hard to do shot is a hyperlapse in a narrow corridor, with walls pretty close to you. In such a situation you basically must have some kind of guidance on the ground for the tripod. When you move the tripod, it can be a little closer to one wall for one picture, then closer to the other wall for another. The result of that is something that can’t be fixed by any stabilization software. I know that understanding which shot will be easier, and which harder requires a lot of experience.
In conclusion I would say that if you don’t know when you can do a hyperlapse without following a straight line with your tripod – find a line for every shot you do. It will be just easier and you’ll get less disappointment in post production.
Too short shot or too short path for the shot
As we’re talking about the path, there is another factor to consider about planning the hyperlapse. You have to adjust your hyperlapse to the path length. I mean, you decide how much you move the tripod between each picture. If your path is limited, maybe you’ve got only 20 meters of pavement, you’ve got to adjust how much you move your tripod to that pavement. If you move one big step for every picture you’ll get only about 20 pictures, which is not even a 1 second hyperlapse. In such a location, you can move the tripod for a very small distance, for example 20 cm.
Something that is linked with that is the hyperlapse length. It’s good to check on your camera before you finish shooting how long your shot is. Remember, that you need at least 24 pictures for 1 second hyperlapse. And it’s good to have at least 3-4 seconds shot. As I’ve said, shooting hyperlapse is a boring and exhausting process. After taking some pictures you may think that you’ve already shot hundreds of them and you can finish. However it’s not always true. Sometimes I check that and I see that I have 40 pictures or so. Everything depends on the shot, but make sure to capture enough pictures for at least 3-4 seconds of footage.
Using only the automatic stabilization in post
And now, let’s get to the post production. The biggest mistake I see in hyperlapse stabilization is leaving everything to Warp Stabilizer. This automatic Stabilizer is amazing and can make super smooth hyperlapses, but it doesn’t work for every shot. Especially those more complex. Most of the tutorials on the internet say that hyperlapse stabilization is easy and you need just Warp. This works for some type of shots in case you don’t have anything that covers your theme, like trees for example. I very rarely shoot simple hyperlapses, so I rarely use Warp. And if I do, it’s usually combined with other stabilization methods.
Not taking your time in post
And that’s a smooth transition to the last mistake, which is not spending enough time on hyperlapse stabilization. Even if you use Warp and it looks decent, sometimes there are things to tweak to make it really good. The good practice is, even after Warp Stabilizer, to add one point stabilization on your fixed point. It was supposed to be fixed to the screen, and after Warp, it usually isn’t perfect. It’s a small difference, but can make a pretty good hyperlapse look super smooth. It shines especially when you speed up the hyperlapse shot in post. Let’s say you stabilize hyperlapse in After Effects, it looks stable. Then you export the finished shot as a video file and import to Premiere, or send it to your client, who will be editing the video by themself. In editing the final video, you can see the pacing of it and sometimes hyperlapse can be speeded up to fit better. Warp Stabilizer after speeding up can look far from perfect. Once you stabilize the reference point to be fixed in one place, it should look good at any speed. That’s something I always do in my shots.
Here it is, 5 different mistakes in hyperlapses I see often online. Do you want a video on how to speed up your hyperlapse process? Let me know in the comments. And don’t forget to check out the Hyperlapse Academy, my online timelapse and hyperlapse school, that will teach you everything you need to know to shoot great looking timelapses and make money with that skill.